Introductory Remarks from the
World Health Organization

The World Health Organization gives high priority to the safe use and application of modern biotechnology to food production and processing. For this reason WHO has been very active in the organization of expert consultations on the safety of foods derived from biotechnology since early 90's. In May 2000, the 53rd World Health Assembly adopted a resolution that WHO should support Member States to provide scientific basis for health-related decision regarding genetically modified foods. Additionally, the WHO Executive Board envisaged that other relevant considerations would be explored in collaboration with other agencies.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) is an intergovernmental body set up to establish international standards on foods. Its primary objective is to protect the health of consumers and to ensure fair practices in food trade. WHO has been one of the parent organizations of the CAC since its establishment in 1963. Within the framework of the Codex Alimentarius activity WHO, and its UN sister Organization FAO, have been involved in the Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Codex Task Force on Foods Derived from Biotechnology, the Codex Committee on Food Labeling and the Codex Committee for Methods of Analysis and Sampling.

The WHO Food Safety Programme in Europe has been collaborating with the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission since 2000 in the organization of training courses on detection techniques for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in foods. The aim of these trainings is to provide analytical biotechnology skills to food control laboratory staff and promote the use of validated and harmonized methods for detecting GMOs in Europe and internationally,

Adequate methods for analysis and sampling are essential for the appropriate labeling of foods to increase transparency on production processes and to facilitate traceability thus contributing to strengthen food safety systems. To allow broader access to these methods it has been decided that the tutorial manual used during the JRC/WHO Joint Training Courses will be to published on the web. The methods presented in this manual are in line with those considered by the Codex Committee for Methods of Analysis and Sampling.

The WHO Food Safety Programme in Europe recognizes the importance of the collaboration between the European Commission Joint Research Centre, a worldwide recognized scientific institution in the field of GMOs, and will continue promoting capacity building activities in the field of detection methods of GMOs in foods in Europe and other Regions.

Cristina Tirado, DVM, PhD
WHO Food Safety Regional Adviser in Europe




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